O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
But give me rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to my servant.
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
A common fourth-century prayer of Lent from St. Ephrem the Syrian
What is Lent?
Lent is about the gospel. It is a time to narrow the focus of the Church to the work of Christ, in particular His life and death, a season to turn from sin and trust in His atoning work.
It is easy to get lost in the cultural caricature of Easter and miss the meaning. Lent is a reminder that the resurrection only occurred after the crucifixion. Rather than skipping over the ministry and crucifixion of Christ, Lent prepares us for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we symbolically enter the sorrow and pain that preceded it.
Lent lasts approximately 46 days, including Sundays, between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days (excluding Sundays) have obvious biblical parallel in the flood narrative (Gen. 6-8), the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai (Exod. 24:12-18), Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-12) and Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11Mark 1:9-12Luke 4:1-13). The last of these accounts is most relevant to Lent.
Originally a preparation period for those desiring to be baptized, Lent eventually became embedded into Christian tradition as a time for the Church to symbolically follow Christ into the wilderness. It is a time for fasting and self-denial, though not for denial itself. It is a period to empty ourselves of lesser things so that we might be filled with the greater things of the gospel.
Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, a day to remember our mortality and the idea that we are but dust and to it we shall return. In many churches, individuals celebrate Ash Wednesday by placing ash on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, representing entrance into a time of denial, repentance and humility.
Unlike Advent and the use of candles and wreaths, there is no universal symbol for the season, but many choose to use votives to create a Lenten cross. This cross is typically formed by seven small tea lights. Each evening, all seven candles are lit, and one is extinguished for each week of Lent that passes. During the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday of week seven, no lights are lit as participants reflect upon the darkness of Gethsemane, Golgotha and the grave.
Whereas Advent is a season of ever-increasing light anticipating the incarnation of Christ, Lent is a season of ever-decreasing light approaching His crucifixion. Light is gradually extinguished to symbolize the journey through the wilderness and toward the cross and tomb. Black (death and mourning) and purple (repentance) are the colors most often associated with the tradition.
The Village has produced a guide to walk us through the seven weeks of Lent. Each week includes a reading from the life of Christ in the Gospel of Luke, as well as four supplemental passages to consider throughout the week. Additionally, there is a suggested fast to coincide with each week.
Weekly sermons and groups will focus on the current sermon series and not the various themes of Lent. The guide’s recommended readings and fasts are provided for your edification and encouragement, but not everyone in our body will choose to participate. In light of this, guard your own heart if you see a Starbucks cup while you are fasting from coffee or if you get invited to dinner while you are fasting from food.
You are permitted to use the 2016 Lent Guide in your church or ministry for free, as long as you do not change or add to the guide in any way, charge for the guide or use it for any commercial purpose. This nonexclusive, revocable license expires on December 31, 2016.